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From: The Socialist issue 1120, 10 February 2021: Tories admit market failure - we want our NHS back!

Search site for keywords: Racism - Workers - Black - BAME

Black Workers' Charter: A programme to fight racism

In Cardiff, protesting against police brutality   (Click to enlarge)

by Socialist Party black & Asian group members
The black and Asian group of the Socialist Party is producing a Black Workers' Charter to start a discussion about the demands needed to fight for the rights of black and Asian people, and what programme is needed to end racial discrimination.

Racism exists in all aspects of the lives of black and Asian people in the UK. The recent global movement around Black Lives Matter (BLM), sparked by the brutal murder of George Floyd, revealed the depth of anger against it.

In the UK, numerous mass protests saw thousands and thousands of mainly working-class young people, from all backgrounds, coming onto the streets to demand justice for black people brutally murdered by the police, and to express opposition to racism.

Globally, the BLM protests are the most recent ground-shaking anti-racist movement. There have been many previous waves of anti-racist struggle, including the tremendous civil rights movement of the 1950s, 60s and early 70s, which impacted the lives of black people worldwide.

Such powerful movements led to legal improvements, such as the Race Relations Act of 1968 in Britain. This was meant to stop wage inequality, and other racist discrimination. But racism still exists and affects our lives.

Race and class inequality

The black and Asian population in Britain have been disproportionately affected by the economic crisis of 2007-08. And figures already suggest that black, Asian and minority ethnic (BAME) groups are going to be hit harder by the current economic crisis.

Whether it is unemployment, lack of housing, or poverty, black people have been at the forefront in suffering attacks on their jobs and living conditions, as well as discrimination at the hands of the police and legal system.


Covid-19 has further exposed the class and race inequality that exists within capitalism. The Institute for Fiscal Studies found that black men are 4.2 times more likely to die of the disease than white men.

The equivalent figure for Bangladeshi and Pakistani men was 3.6, and for Indian men 2.4, with similar proportions for women. BAME groups have suffered greater repression during the pandemic, being almost 50% more likely to be arrested under coronavirus laws than white people.

The disproportionate effects of the pandemic on BAME people are not accidental.

A third of all working-age people from a black African background are key workers. In the NHS, for example, around 40% of doctors and 20% of nurses are from a BAME background.

These essential workers have been working throughout the peaks of the pandemic, providing vital services. Key workers in Britain have been let down by the Tory government and the capitalist system that failed to provide them adequate and sufficient support, pay or PPE.

The most deprived areas have twice the coronavirus death rate of the least deprived. Low pay, overcrowded accommodation and cuts to services all play a part. The key factors that have emerged as responsible for inequalities in death rates, during the pandemic, are inequalities in society as a whole.

In 2019, black people were 56% more likely than the national average to be in the 'persistent low income' category. Asian people were twice as likely. And a higher proportion of BAME workers are in what gets called 'low-skilled' jobs than the average.

The tragedy of the Grenfell fire (see page 4) saw BAME communities disproportionately affected by continuous government neglect. Years of being ignored, sidelined and left behind saw working-class families killed.

Discrimination in numbers

Can't have capitalism without racism

Racism and the injustice of discrimination taking place in all aspects of our lives need to be opposed. This means fighting for all the reforms and changes needed to improve the conditions facing black, Asian and other minorities.

To fight for a society free from racism means challenging the very core of the system that we live in. Key leaders of the civil rights movement, including Martin Luther King, Malcolm X and Huey P Newton, all travelled down the road towards believing that the fight against racism and for black liberation could not be achieved under capitalism.

They all drew the conclusion that "you can't have capitalism without racism". The Socialist Party agrees.

Who owns wealth?

Capitalism is a system based on the exploitation of workers in order to maximise the profits of a few. Today, a tiny group of people, in Britain and worldwide, own and control industry, science and technology, and harness them in order to make vast fortunes.

Globally eight people own as much wealth as the poorest half of humanity - the greatest polarisation between rich and poor in human history. In Britain, the majority of us have faced endless austerity, while a tiny handful are raking it in. For example, the CEOs of the 100 biggest stock-market-listed companies collect an obscene 73 times the average wage of their workers.

The Covid-19 pandemic has revealed who runs society, who the essential and key workers are. It is not the CEOs, but the workers in transport, healthcare, schools, retail, hospitality, etc. It is the vast majority of us.

BAME, women and young people are disproportionately concentrated in low-paid jobs, and are exploited further by the capitalist system. We need to build a mass movement that unites the working class around a common programme.

Capitalism offers no hope of a decent future for the 99%. It is an unequal, oppressive and discriminatory system, and divides us on the basis of race, gender, sexuality, etc. It survives by keeping us divided.

Working class

As socialists, we say that it is the working class that is the force in society that can get rid of capitalism. Class exploitation unites workers of all backgrounds.

Together we have the power to fundamentally change this rotten system. We, as the working class, have enormous potential power through our ability to withdraw our labour and stop the flow of profits to the bosses.

Covid-19 pandemic has brought misery for the working class, but it has also revealed our collective strength. It is essential to link the fight against racism, and other forms of oppression, to the fight against class exploitation and capitalism.

It is only through this that we can fundamentally change society - socialist change - free of all exploitation, oppression and discrimination.

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The coronavirus crisis has laid bare the class character of society in numerous ways. It is making clear to many that it is the working class that keeps society running, not the CEOs of major corporations.

The results of austerity have been graphically demonstrated as public services strain to cope with the crisis.

The government has now ripped up its 'austerity' mantra and turned to policies that not long ago were denounced as socialist. But after the corona crisis, it will try to make the working class pay for it, by trying to claw back what has been given.

Inevitably, during the crisis we have not been able to sell the Socialist and raise funds in the ways we normally would.

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Black and Asian keywords:

African American (3)

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Black Power (6)

Caste (7)

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Article dated 10 February 2021

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